Buddhism: the Planet’s Whipping Boy?

18 Jul

Yak dressed as Buddhist monk, from Dance Mat Typing programme.[tweetmeme source=”@mummy_t” only_single=false]It’s often said, generally by Christians of the scary-to-very-scary variety, that folk can be far ruder about Christianity than any of the world’s “great religions” and get away with it.

Now, when it comes to what my ma used to call “the People of the Book” but now terms “the Sky God religions”, this may well be true. When it comes to Buddhism, however, it seems that anything goes.

Even on the BBC! In fact, the nine year old has recently put fingers to keyboard and sent a stern email to the Director-General of the Beeb.

It reads, in its entirety:

“To the director general of the BBC;
I have been doing your dance-mat touch-typing program, and frankly, I am shocked at how religiously insulting to Tibetan Buddhism its 7th stage is. If you are at all concerned with your program’s popularity, I suggest you change the theme immediately. I have observed that you have been making a mockery of  monastery rules such as shaven heads, and insist you replace this disgraceful act now.
Yours irately, Z…. S…. (age 9)”

Firstly, I am not making this up.

And secondly, he does have a point.

The Dancemat Typing programme teaches children aged 7-11 around the world the basics of touch-typing. Educationally you can’t fault it.

But politically? Jeez…

It features a series of comedy animals. In the stage which so offended junior these are yaks. Dressed as, err, Tibetan Buddhist monks.

In robes. With shaven heads. Standing in front of altars and burning incense. Banging gongs. And helping the aspiring touch-typist along in some of the more bizarre accents I’ve heard in an educational tool which is, IMHO, discomfitingly full of them.

Take a gander at the giraffe on stage eight if you’re in real Guardian reader mode.

Then revert to stage seven and try and imagine anyone doing the equivalent with priests, rabbis, mullahs, pandits, granthis (or even Christian monks or nuns).

I’m trying to as I write. But it makes my head go all twisted up and weird…

A cow in a nun’s costume in a chapel?

A pig… erm… Well, let’s not even go there…

I guess there’s two main reasons that Buddhism is seen as a soft touch in this arena.

Firstly it is a, well, rather gentle religion. Non-violence, and all that.

Secondly, there is a certain subset of Western Buddhism which does rather invite mockery in the Absolutely Fabulous vein.

Y’know. The post-hippie one which goes so beautifully with ear-candling, homeopathy, excessive weed consumption and very, very expensive oil burners.

And, once you’ve taken the piss out of that, why not take the piss out of the real thing? Particularly a version of the real thing that’s currently being persecuted by the Chinese government…


Anywise. I’ll let you know whether the D-G or his minions reply to sir’s missive. In the meantime, do take a look. Do you think he’s being hyper-sensitive? Or am I?

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4 Responses to “Buddhism: the Planet’s Whipping Boy?”

  1. gaz regan July 18, 2010 at 10:04 pm #

    As one of the post-hippy new-age assh***s who enjoys burning a bit of sage and listening to Krisna Das of an afternoon, but who isn’t commited enough to actually subscribe to a religeon, I’d like to pass along the wisdom of my shaman who, at my first session with her, when I was just coming out of a decades-long agnostic phase, told me that yes, there probably is such a thing as God, but I needn’t take it all too seriously. I have a feeling that Buddhists might have a similar attitude to seeing their brother and sister yaks dressed as monks. Just a thought.

    • MummyT July 18, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

      You might well be right! They may well be too mature to give a toss… Wish I’d thought of that explanation…

  2. Paul Franklin July 18, 2010 at 11:32 pm #

    I don’t think it’s intentionally disrespectful of Buddhism, but I can definitely see how some might. I agree with the poster above, in that some Buddhists would have no problem being portrayed as yaks, pigs, or even cows. All things have Buddha nature, so we are no more or no less than any of our fellow creatures.

    It probably wouldn’t hurt people from all nations of the world to learn more about their neighbors religion instead of the strict do’s and don’ts. A little understanding goes a long way.

    • MummyT July 20, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

      Yes. The Gazmonster rather hit the nail on the head, didn’t he?

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